For years, my sister believed that Robin Hood was a fox. The cause for her confusion is, of course, the Disney movie, Robin Hood. I, the book worm, knew better. To me, Robin Hood was a hero of a book, wearing a soft green buckskin cap and possessing unparalleled courage and faultless aim. Stealing from the rich to give to the poor, protecting the weak from the evil Prince John and his cohorts, living in the forest with other outlaws — I could not admire Robin Hood more.
I read several rave reviews about A.C, Gaughen’s novel Scarlet and reluctantly put it on my to-read list. A novel in which Will Scarlet is actually a girl sounded intriguing, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read a different version of Robin Hood. I didn’t know if I could take Will turning out to be a girl. In the end, however, I could not resist — Scarlet popped up everywhere. And so I sat down and read.
Some books take time to get into, but once I succeed in melting into their world, I find I have sunk so deep that I cannot pull myself out when the book ends. That’s what happened to me with Scarlet. For the first three or four chapters I remained skeptical, but then I got sucked in, and for the two days that it took me to finish the book I lived in two completely separate universes: my everyday life and Scar’s in Sherwood Forest. The day after I finished the novel I felt disoriented. Really? No more Scar? No More Rob? I wanted to see their cave again, to see Scar running in the trees, Rob’s stormy ocean eyes, and listen to John Little flirt and joke.
Scarlet is a novel with a twist. I won’t tell you what it is, but the twist surprised me. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t, and when the time came, I just loved so much that I did not foresee it. So often, I know from the beginning of a book what the end will be, and all that is left for me is to watch how the author carries me to where I know we’re going. With Scarlet, thinking that I know the story and thus must know its end, I found myself completely fooled.
Much in Scarlet is about what makes a hero. A. C. Gaughen pushes the limits of how accountable to the townspeople Robin Hood and Scar feel, to the point where they must save every one, whether by gathering tax money (and keeping the villagers from spending it before it is due), rescuing them from jail or the gallows, and bringing them food. I hope the next novel will continue exploring this superman-like theme, and I wish that Scar and Rob can find some relief from their feelings of guilt and over-responsibility.